Tressel gets welcome home

YOUNGSTOWN – There wasn’t a single person who remained seated Monday as former Ohio State University football coach James P. Tressel was officially introduced as Youngstown State University’s ninth president.

The occasion was marked with some words from Ohio’s governor, John R. Kasich, among others as the Valley welcomed back Tressel with open arms.

“The leaders of this community demanded that Jim Tressel come home, demanded that Jim Tressel come back and integrate that spark back into Youngstown State,” Kasich said, referring to a chorus of support from area officials and politicians that preceded the YSU Board of Trustees’ decision to place him at the helm after Randy Dunn’s departure.

Tressel’s popularity in the Valley is no secret and it was the focus of at least a joke or two during the installation ceremony held in Beeghly Center.

Student trustee Eric Shehadi said he never had as many “likes” on his Facebook account as the day he posted a picture of Tressel and himself, and said it’s common knowledge that he is well-known and loved throughout Ohio.

Shehadi, speaking on behalf of students, called Tressel an asset who brings an expertise in building and maintaining relationships, someone who will challenge the status quo with an “enthusiastic attitude” and “will to succeed.”

Kasich said he was surprised and shocked that Tressel thought of him when he was invited to come and speak during the ceremony and told a story about “an amazing personal journey for a remarkable man.”

Kasich recalled Tressel’s years as coach, first for YSU, then for Ohio State, bringing home four national championships as YSU’s head football coach before winning a national championship while head coach for 10 years at OSU.

But Kasich’s story wasn’t all about success.

“We all know that winning has its challenges, and Jim Tressel faced his,” he said, referring to Tressel being forced out at Ohio State following a scandal that led to NCAA sanctions. “It must have been difficult that day could have made most people crumble but not Jim Tressel,” he said.

Leonard D. Schiavone, vice chair of the YSU Board of Trustees, placed the presidential medallion over Tressel’s head shortly after he spoke the Oath of Office. After that, the crowd took to its feet. It was the second standing ovation Tressel received during the ceremony.

“It is with a great deal of gratitude and humility that I accept this representation of what this office means to this institution, to this Valley ” he said in his address.

Tressel attributes his approach to education to his parents. His mother passed away 13 years ago to the day that he was installed as YSU’s ninth president. He said they both taught him and his brothers that “leadership is not a position that you hold, but it’s an action that you take to serve others. That’s what we were taught, to serve others. That’s why we were put on this earth,” he said.

Another inspiration he shared was that of one of his college professors, who told him that if he got really, really good at what he did and he put other people first, there would be something for him.

Tressel stressed increasing excellence, increasing merit and freeing your mind. But he said it is something that has to be done as a community, with everybody involved.

Kasich spoke highly of the Youngstown area.

“I love this town because I love what it represents. It represents the best of us, the best of America. That’s what Tressel’s all about,” Kasich said.

“Welcome home, President Tressel,” Shehadi said, and the room erupted in clapping.

Welcome home, President Tressel. Welcome home.